As Ceramique Internationale announces a new underfloor heating partnership, Dir expanded across commercial en

Underfloor heating (UFH) is a product sector that has grown from being a relatively niche and luxury product, to an accessible and affordable part of projects across both the commercial and domestic markets.

Traditionally associated with bathrooms, UFH is now used across the home – from conservatories to kitchens – and widely in hotels and spas. And while there have been few changes in terms of technology in electric UFH systems, the way in which we use and operate them has evolved from multiple zone systems with two or more programmable thermostats, to smartphone apps that can control temperatures from afar.

When we entered the market 25 years ago, electric UFH was not widely understood and certainly not widely used by consumers. The handful of suppliers that kick-started the market has grown substantially, with a plethora of cheaply produced copycat products flooding into the UK from the Far East. UFH companies in the UK are essentially marketing businesses who buy the products and then re-market them. This has translated into many businesses falling by the wayside over the last 25 years. However, the original and best brands have continued to invest in and develop their product ranges and this is reflected in sales, with the market believed to have grown by at least 20% over the last five years.

From our perspective, it has been important for us to work with a company with great understanding and expertise in the sector. So, we are delighted to have partnered with Warmtoes Underfloor Heating to sell and distribute its products across all sectors of our business. The people behind Warmtoes spent more than 25 years working in this market for other companies - developing products, selling, marketing, problem solving, etc- before launching this business, so could not be in a better position to provide the very best quality and service.

We’re now able to offer our customers the right range of products, from the super-flexible, single-core heating elements in a range of loose cables and adhesive mats, to thermostatic controls to suit all requirements – including simple-to-understand touch-screen programmable controls, that combine with Wi-Fi, and a free App that provides individual room control without the need for smart hubs.

So why has UFH grown in popularity? We believe there are two reasons – efficiency and ease of installation at the beginning of a project.

Electric UFH is effectively like a high-spec electric blanket, using heating elements to generate warmth and create radiant heat. In the UK we are used to, and understand, convected heat –the type of warmth that you can feel such as central heating radiators, a gas fire,

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log burner or electric fire. A large area that gets warm – such as UFH - produces radiant heat, creating a pleasant environment that is comfortable rather than something that is hot. This makes it very efficient because it reduces the heat loss from our bodies without overheating the air surrounding our bodies.

UFH actually only adds a few millimetres to the floor build-up so is suitable for almost any room. Builders and specifiers are recognising the benefits of using UFH in bathrooms, kitchens and conservatories to either complement or replace more traditional convected heat sources - adding an element of luxury to a new home without impacting on the aesthetics.

Boutique hotels are also choosing to install UFH in en- suite bathrooms for that added home-from-home luxury and we are seeing it being used in spa areas to add to the comfort and experience of their customers.

In reality, there have been few changes in terms of technology in electric UFH systems in the last 25 years because the whole concept relies on copper - the conductor of heat. The technology and the use of copper won’t change until a better, cheaper conductor of heat is discovered. All that said, advances have been made in terms of efficiency, with modern UFH able to use lower wattage to achieve the same temperatures – therefore making them much more cost effective and efficient.

However, the way in which we use and operate UFH systems has changed – making them a more attractive option for new build projects. One of the growth areas is multiple zone systems – with two or more thermostats – which barely existed five years ago but now represent a significant proportion of sales. This development suits tech-driven consumers who want to control their homes from a smartphone app or home hub.

Aside from the comfort and luxury of UFH, there are many other benefits. Firstly, with the continued desire for minimalist looks in both homes and hotels, the hidden nature of UFH is a real bonus. Plus, in bathrooms and wet room areas, it also has the added safety benefit of helping to speed up the drying of tiles.

While traditionally UFH has been used under hard floor surfaces, there are also now products available that can be used under soft flooring, such as carpets and engineered wood, so there really is no barrier.

In short, adding UFH to a project can add value and luxury at a relatively low cost and we expect to see it continue to be used more widely in both commercial, residential and hospitality sectors.

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